HOUSTON - A 25-year-old man was taken into custody Monday after he tried to blow up a Confederate statue at Hermann Park, acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez announced.
Andrew Cecil Earhart Schneck was charged with attempting to maliciously damage or destroy property receiving federal financial assistance.
Schneck made his initial appearance in court Monday morning.
According to court documents, a Houston park ranger saw Schneck kneeling in the bushes in front of the General Dowling Monument at Hermann Park. Court documents said he was allegedly holding two small boxes with various items inside, including what appeared to be duct tape and wires. When park rangers ordered Schneck to put down the boxes, he took a drink of clear liquid from a plastic bottle and then spit it on the ground, court documents said.
The ranger noticed a timer and wires in the box and called Houston police, according to the documents.
The liquid was tested, along with a white powdery substance that was found in a small, black, aluminum tube. The substances were most likely nitroglycerin and hexamethylene triperoxide diamine, according to the documents.
"HMTD is a high explosive organic compound used as an initiating, or primary explosive. Nitroglycerin has been used as an active ingredient in the manufacture of explosives," court documents said. "In its pure form, nitroglycerin is a contact explosive, with physical shock causing it to explode, which degrades over time to even more unstable forms. Nitroglycerin is highly dangerous to transport or use. In its undiluted form, it is one of the world's most powerful explosives."
Authorities believe the items in Schneck’s possession on Saturday were capable of producing a viable explosive device, according to the documents.
A neighborhood near Rice University was evacuated Monday as authorities continued the operation to clear the scene, which began Sunday.
Authorities said residents in the area of Shepherd Drive and Bissonnett Street might have heard loud noises as crews worked to dispose of hazardous materials using controlled detonations.
The Houston Police Department, the FBI, the Houston Fire Department Hazmat Unit and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Sunday began an operation at Schneck's home after a traffic stop.
For hours, federal agents, many of them wearing full tactical gear, went in and out of the house.
At one point, they even brought in a special robot, normally used to handle explosive materials and homemade bombs.
Four years ago, in October of 2013, almost the same scene played out at the very same house, with federal agents searching the property, sources said, looking for materials that could be used to make nerve gas or tear gas.
Less than a year after that, Schneck, who had lived in that home with his parents, was convicted of the crime of not conforming to storage of explosive material and sentenced to five years of probation and a $159,000 fine.
Court documents said that Schneck conducted “chemistry experiments” at his home.
If convicted for Saturday's incident, Schneck faces a minimum of five to 40 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.
His next court appearance is scheduled for Thursday.
On Monday, authorities warned residents in the neighborhood to be prepared to hear loud noises as the explosives are controlled.
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